Peruvian Adventure 5/18/2006-6/28/2006
5/21/2006 Café Andino Huaraz, Peru 1400 10,254 ft: For the past two days Skip and Tom have been talking
about this legendary guide they call “the man who made the Sherpa’s cry”. The story is that a few years ago he was part
of an expedition on
As Skip was reciting one of these legendary tales, Jorje and his son Walter walk in to the court yard below and call up to Skip. They had come down from their village above Huaraz for the day, and had heard that their old amigo Skip was back in town. After they had visited for a while I mentioned that I had heard that there was some local bouldering and Walter volunteered to take me up the next morning for a little rock work.
Walter had just completed his elite guide training through the Case de Guias and was looking forward to the upcoming climbing season. Besides intense training in all aspects of climbing and mountaineering, the Casa de Guias requires all guides to learn at least one non-regional language. Fortunately for me he had chosen English.
The next morning we caught the collectivo from Huaraz and
were dropped off in a green pasture near the small
Walter on our walk from Huanchac to Huaraz
After returning from a great day of bouldering and touring I had dinner with Skip, Becky (Skip’s wife) and Tommy at the French Bistro. This was another benefit of hanging out with Skip. The restaurant was owned and run by a French chef and former climber who had come to Huaraz to climb, met a Peruvian lady named Lola, got married, and now they run two successful restaurants in town. The company and food were first class.
5/23/2006: Huaraz: Just a relaxing day. Walked around town, visited the market, and
got provisions for my morning trip in to the
Typical Huaraz market street scene
Since it is still early season there are few other touristy looking people. Mostly locals, but frequently I encounter a person or small group of gringos with back packs wandering the street like I am. Generally when you encounter someone “like you” in a strange place, you are drawn together. This is not the case here. People seem to be on their own adventure and I think would rather imagine themselves sole travelers in a foreign land than one of thousands who will visit this area during this season.
5/24/06: Ishinca Base Camp 4,460 ft, elevation gain today
3,066 ft, total for
Fidel and family packing up my stuff in the square in Pashpa for the trek in to Ishinca Base Camp
There was no activity in the shops and the only sign of life was a man, a woman and two kids. The man’s name was Fidel, one of a few arrieros who worked out of the village. The woman and children were his family and working partners in his business.
My stuff was dumped in the square and after a brief introduction, me llomo Daniel and me llamo Fidel, Fidel and the family packed up my gear on two burros and with in 30 minutes we were hiking up in to the Ishinca Valley of the Peruvian Andes.
On the trail to Ishinca with Fidel and the burros in the lead
It was a fairly gently four hour climb from the open fields ad lupines around Pashpa, through tropical looking Quenual trees up to almost 14,000 ft and finally in to the rock strewn sub-glacial alluvial fan of the Ishinca Valley with Nevado Tocllaraju dominating the sky line.
Passing through the Quenual forest on the way to the Ishinca Valley
On the way ran in to two Canadian woman who were just hiking out. They had less than a successful trip with both of them getting tourista and spending about four days in their tent unable to move except for emergency bathroom trips. They also reported that no one had yet summated Tocllaraju this year. There had been a couple of Russians who got turned around due to route problems and illness, there are been a couple of Spaniards that had turned around at high camp. There were currently a couple of Canadian guys who were heading to high camp and would be attempting to summit in the next couple of days.
As I got closer to camp the clouds moved in.
Fidel unpacked my gear, neatly piled it on the ground, secured his strapping ropes and blankets and got ready to head four hours back to Pashpa. The one item we needed to be certain on was the date and time that he would return. Given my limited Spanish and his no English this was a bit challenging, but in the end he seemed to firmly understand that he would return around 10 AM on May 30th. His fee for the day was 35 soles ($10) and another 17.5 s ($5) per burro, for a grand total of $20 for nine hours of work and two animals.
I set up my tent in the meadow. Looking southeast toward Tocllaraju I had Ures Estes on my left with its peak shrouded by clouds and an impending snow storm, and Ishinca on my right with Ranrapalca sitting on Ishinca’s right shoulder.
Camp in the
By the time I got my tent set up it was starting to snow lightly. I boiled up some water for dinner and then wandered around camp to meet some of the other residents. During mid-season there can be 100 or more tents in this meadow, but right now in late may there were only 8 tents set up by hopeful climbers.
I met two Canadian women who were on their way out and had
failed their summit attempt on Tocllaraju, not due to lack of stamina or skill,
but due to E. coli. There were two
I had hoped to check out my approach on Urus for the morning, but snow and low clouds left me with no more than a good guess when I leave for the Urus summit 3-4 AM tomorrow morning.
It is around 8 PM and one hour after sunset. At 9 degrees south of the equator, one thing you can count on never changing is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. With 3 AM approaching fast I think I’ll get my beauty rest.
5/24/2006: 11:20 AM Ishinca Base Camp. Elevation gain today 3,240, total for IVT 6,306 ft.
Woke around 3 AM today to prepare for Ures Este climb. The tent was coated in frost and the ground
had a very light layer of new snow, but looking outside the stars were so thick
in the sky that they looked like high cirrus clouds. There was no moon, no hint of a sun rise, and
with the only large population center being hundreds of miles and a mountain
range away over the
Hitting the trail to Urus at 3 AM
Having not been able to fully get my bearing due to the snow storm yesterday afternoon, I just set my bearing in the direction I know I needed to go and headed up. I did have some company. While we had no contact, the Italian group was up around the same time and heading up Urus. I could see their headlamps bobbing along the hillside and I assumed we would meet up at some point. Just having company on the mountain was comforting.
After about thirty minutes I lost all sight of the Italian’s headlight and I just headed through the moving five foot diameter world created by my headlamp that passed in front of me. After about 1,000 ft of climbing I found a well worn trail and along with it a good deal of needed reassurance. The trail continued upward for another 1,000 ft until I came to a boulder strewn area and the beginning of the glacier and snow.
While I stopped to refuel and put on my crampons, I noticed two symmetrical illuminations across the valley to the southeast. There were two bright lights like horns on a bull with a dark area between the two objects. My only guess was that it was the tent of the Canadian’s at the high camp on Tocllaraju. Seconds later the mystery was solved as a horizontal crescent moon rose directly behind the summit cone of Tocllaraju. The summit had split the reclining crescent in half creating the two horns of light.
A half hour later the sun began to rise and the sky illuminated. Just as the sun came in to full view, in clear and crisp conditions, I scrambled up the final rock slabs and ice to the 17,300 ft summit of Urus Estes.
On the descent I ran in to the group of four Italians at the snow line. We had a friendly exchange, took some pictures and headed on our respective ways.
Met the Italians on the way down. The summit of Urus Estes is in the background
I was back by 9 AM and had tea with the guys from